16 Oct 2015

Alice in Wonderland - now in Te Reo

10:38 am on 16 October 2015

The famous novel Alice in Wonderland has been translated into Te Reo Māori to mark its 150th anniversary.

It was written in 1865 by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

Irish publishing company Evertype wanted to honour the book by translating it into as many languages as possible.

Waikato University senior lecturer Tom Roa was approached by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America to translate it into Māori.

Tom Roa

Tom Roa and the book. Photo: Supplied

Mr Roa recalls the first time he heard the story being read out loud to him in class 60 years ago at Otorohanga School and said that's when his fascination with the story began.

"Practically my second or third day at school this beautiful Pākehā teacher reads to me this incredible adventures of Alice in Wonderland and I was totally rapt," he said.

Mr Roa said although he was brought up speaking Māori it was this novel that captured his interest in the quirky style of English it was written in.

"I could barely understand the English language let alone this kind of English that was being read to me and I thought to myself this story is so incredible."

The Ngāti Maniapoto man said while he was captivated by the story his classmates had lost interest.

"Im sitting there with my arms and legs folded and my mouth wide open and I take a glance at my classmates and they had all gone to sleep."

So when Mr Roa was asked to translate the story into Māori he said he was happy to do it.

He said it took him 3 years to complete the project and instead of translating the book word for word he translated it from the context.

He said he had to come up with ways of saying things in Te Reo that conveyed the same meaning.

"The whole story is full of English idiom and it's not the English idiom of today it's the English idiom of Victorian England from 150 years ago.

Mr Roa says his 7 year-old Māori speaking grandson thoroughly enjoyed hearing Alice in Wonderland read to him in Te Reo so much so that he rolled on the floor cracking up laughing.

"So, I thought if I did a word for word translation that the sense would be totally lost and then I also thought about the context for my grandchildren.

"I read some of the passages while I was translating it to grandson who often just cracked up and said that's just so silly: Pōrangi e koro, pōrongi katoa te iwi rā! (That's silly grand-dad, those people (in that book) are all silly!).

"And I thought great I've caught that non-sense and the silliness of this wonderful world of Alice's adventures."

Ko Ngā Takahanga i Ārihi i Te Ao Miharo - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in Māori can be ordered online through Amazon.